AIA partner Sprouts will once again award a $500 gift card to its “Team of the Season” in honor of winter sports participants. Voting will take place Monday through Friday on the AZPreps365 Live mobile application. It’s a free download in the Apple app and Google Play stores, and fans need to register their app to be able to vote.
The four finalists — Alchesay Women’s Basketball, Centennial Men’s Basketball, Mesquite Men’s Basketball, and Sahuarita Men’s Wrestling — were selected by AZPreps365 editors based on their overall performance, obstacle resolution, strength, community involvement and other intangibles that made this season memorable.
Voting will take place from Monday at 10 a.m. to Friday at 10 a.m. The winning team will be announced on the AZPreps365 Saturday morning show on Saturday, April 9, between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. The nominees are below.
Alchesay Women’s Basketball
When COVID-19 historians document the greatest adversity the virus has brought to any organization in Arizona, they may first look to 2022 state women’s basketball champion Alchesay High School – especially head coach Rick Sanchez, the 3A Conference Coach of the Year. His management of the program not only led them to 25 wins after losing all of the 2020-21 pandemic year, but he led the Falcons to the 3A title after winning the 2A championship three years prior.
As for Sanchez’s daughters, only three were back. Eight had graduated with the pandemic year, claiming eligibility for four more juniors from his final 2A season in 2019-20. After a full year of closure in Whiteriver which he described as ‘terrible’ and ‘terrible’, where social distancing meant neither girls nor boys could even congregate to informally play the sport that the town considers his cornerstone, Sanchez has relied on a trio of returning forwards for direction.
After a two-point victory over Tuba City in the first round of the 3A North tournament, they would never lose again, winning the regional bid, 50-44, against tournament host Chinle, before smoking their first three opponents of the 3A tournament on average. of 21 points.
Although arch-nemesis the Wildcats saved their toughest challenge for last, forcing overtime in the 3A Championship, it was the team’s smallest player, five-foot junior Jaylyn Nashio, who responded with 13 points to support Nosie’s 16. With 22 points on 10-on-15 free throws, however, it was Brandy Edwards and her trips to the charity strip that finished the Wildcats, 66-64. In front of their entire Whiteriver community on Feb. 26 at a packed Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the Falcons were finally able to trade the masks they’ve been forced to play all season for their first 3A conference banner.
Centennial Men’s Basketball
Randy Lavender didn’t give up, and neither did his boys.
In March, Lavender appeared headed for a third state championship loss as a head coach. Centennial trailed 10 in the final six minutes or so of the 5A Conference Championship game. But a stunning 18-1 late-game run against Gilbert saw Centennial win 46-39 and clinch their first men’s basketball gold ball.
The 2022 underdog Coyotes needed luck in March to pocket the trophy. With 54 seconds left in the championship game, Emory Young converted a three on the glass to give Centennial its first lead, 40-39, since the second quarter. From there, Centennial point guard Jake Lifgren hit every one of his late-game free throws, scoring 10 of his fourth-quarter-high 17 points.
Throughout the regular season and playoffs, Lavender’s team was energized by their large fan base. A strong contingent made the over 3 hour drive to Sierra Vista to see Centennial defeat top seed Buena in the semi-finals. Decked out in red, Centennial fans showed up in force, as well as during the finale at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Lavender also got to share her first championship with her son, Trent, a century-old basketball player who battled injuries late in his high school career. But Trent took to the court in the final and made a basket to help his team finish 26-5.
boys mesquite basketball
Mesquite caught fire in late December and never let go as he capped off his 4A Championship season with the school’s first-ever boys’ title. Coach Shawn Lynch, in his second year at Mesquite after leaving coaching for administration at Williams Field and Westwood High Schools in the 2010 decade, guided the Wildcats’ fortunes.
Mesquite went 27-3 and won its last 18 straight games to earn the No. 6 seed heading into the playoffs. He won the Desert Sky Region title in perfect fashion (8-0) and did not lose to a 4A school during the season. His only losses were to Hamilton, Brophy and Gilbert – the 6A runner-up, 6A semi-finalist and 5A runner-up, respectively.
At the 4A State Tournament, his conquests, in order, were Prescott, Peoria, Saint Mary’s and Salpointe Catholic. Peoria and Saint Mary’s were the two schools most talked about as favorites for the preseason title. His title run required some luck in his semi-final win over the Knights, 74-73. Standout guard Nate Calmese fired a desperate shot from about two-thirds the length down the field as time clocked out for the win.
Mesquite faced top-ranked Salpointe in the league game and didn’t back down. Closed throughout, the Wildcats hit their shots when they needed to complete the stretch for the 64-58 victory at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Sahuarita Boys Wrestling
Sahuarita went from 0 points in 2019 to 160.5 last winter, and the leap from last place to a state championship hasn’t been measured in just three years and plenty of points. It was measured with hard work and dedication under head coach Paul Vasquez.
The Mustangs only had one state-qualified wrestler in 2019, but that number grew to eight in 2020 with a runner-up and individual state champion in Gabriel Howard.
Sahuarita qualified 11 in 2021 and that resulted in another runner-up, but no individual state champions. That changed again in 2022 when the team sent 12 wrestlers to the state finals, and three individuals (Sergio Pena, Gabriel Gallardo, and Julian Prieto) won state championships to help lead the Mustangs to the first title. team in program history after four previous ones. second place since 1977.